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Dino Varkey

CEO, GEMS Education

Janecke Aarnaes

Head of School, Dwight School Dubai

K-12 education in Dubai is revolutionizing the sector through private schools offering multiple price points and innovative teaching programs.

How do you distinguish yourself in the competitive education landscape of Dubai?
DINO VARKEY We are the largest education provider in the world. In Dubai, 48% of our schools are rated outstanding compared to the market average of 21% as per the School Inspection Reports by the Knowledge & Human Development Authority (KHDA). In Dubai, we currently have 124,000 students across 31 schools and 7,400 teachers among our 18,000 employees. We are a multi-price-point and multi-curricular group, which is critical in this market, offering the American, British, International Baccalaureate (IB) and Indian school systems. We cater to the ambition and aspiration of all demographics in any country that we operate in.

JANECKE AARNAES We take our commitment to personalized learning extremely seriously and have several programs that support our students in this area. For example, the Spark Tank program is an opportunity for students to develop their ideas and passions into tangible business ideas. The Spark Tank combines design thinking and critical analysis, indirectly teaching skills such as business management and various communication skills. By discovering and nurturing each of these individual passions, we are preparing students for jobs of the future. No matter the field or future job market, the Spark Tank process gives us the opportunity to show the students the importance of thinking creatively. They also get the chance to fully immerse themselves in personal development sessions that help them reflect on what they do, why they do it, and what they need to change to improve and be successful.

What is the current situation in Dubai in terms of education?
DV Dubai is the best example globally of a K-12 education market, with the majority of schools in this system represented by the private sector. Dubai offers choice and diversity that you do not see in other markets; elsewhere, there is the predominance of a homogenous public education system that does not cater to the ambition and aspirations of the people. In other markets, typically, you see expensive schools that are inaccessible to most of the population or charitable institutions that are unsustainable. In Dubai, you have choice for families with annual fees as low as USD2,000 to as high as USD35,000 per year. Due to the exceptional education system in place, parents are able to send children to MIT or Harvard from across this wide range of school portfolios, with the high quality of education their children gain. Consistency of student qualifications, character development, and educational outcomes are evident across our portfolio. Today, the UAE is the largest market in the world for private K-12 international schools and is two and a half times the size of the same market in China. The top-five cities in the world in terms of private K-12 enrolment are Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, and Sharjah.

What is the significance of being the first school in Dubai to be granted a license for an online learning program?
JA The Rahhal program, developed in collaboration with KHDA and the Dubai Future Foundation’s 10X initiative, is an integral part of the future of the education landscape in the UAE. The program embodies the UAE’s governments future-forward vision and ambition for the country and is a giant leap in to the right direction for modernizing learning. The program is a blended learning opportunity for students, particularly those who might not receive all that they need at school, or might need to be home schooled. It gives more students access to a high-quality, KHDA-approved education and the flexibility to learn and succeed on their own terms. The program is closely linked to a teacher as the student-teacher connection is essential to development; it is personalized so each student receives the learning support that he or she needs. The blended model allows students to study both at school and at home, so they do not feel they are missing out on the community aspect of school.



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